by Emily Kulp
Last April, it was revealed that abolitionist Harriet Tubman would be replacing former president Andrew Jackson on our $20 bill. There has, however, been recent speculation that President Trump will seek to reverse this motion since he previously referred to putting Tubman’s face on the bill as “pure political correctness” and recently visited and set a wreath on Andrew Jackson’s tomb.
I believe it is important we grant the space on the front of one our country’s most commonly used bills to Tubman and retire Jackson’s image. Tubman was a brave and fearless woman, putting the security and well-being of others far ahead of herself. Once free from slavery, she continually put her life at risk to help others escape.
Andrew Jackson was a populist who professed to put the needs of the common people before the wealthy elite. He did not, however, end up putting every American’s needs ahead of his own. He advocated strongly for the expansion of slavery to the western United States territories and notoriously used U.S. army force to make Native Americans evacuate their homelands during the Trail of Tears, causing thousands to die during the march.
Harriet Tubman stopped at nothing to help those in need. She risked her own life and safety for the neediest of the marginalized, even building a Home for the Aged to assist poor and elderly former slaves after the Civil War. While Andrew Jackson claimed his goal was to meet the needs of others, he deliberately wrought unspeakable pain and tragedy on some of the most marginalized people in the country.
On President Trump’s visit to Jackson’s home and tomb in Nashville, Tennessee, he said to a crowd, “It was during the revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite—does that sound familiar to you? I wonder why they keep talking about Trump and Jackson, and Jackson and Trump.”
While President Trump’s belief in the similarities between Andrew Jackson and himself has some worried that he isn’t likely to replace the former president’s face with Tubman’s on the $20 bill, I believe it is important to reflect on how similarities between Trump and Jackson prove our need to see a new face on our money. Trump’s attempts to institute immigration bans and his rhetoric demeaning countless minority groups during his campaign show the same lack of regard for marginalized peoples that Jackson embodied.
While both President Jackson and President Trump ran populist campaigns and purported to value the common working class, they left those most vulnerable on the sidelines. The $20 bill, as our nation’s currency, has value to us. For the respect of ourselves, our country and those commonly forgotten by so-called populist campaigns, we need to ensure the face on that bill reflects our values. Harriet Tubman was a strong, selfless and genuine woman. Her love and concern for those less fortunate than herself was not a means to a glorious end or a high office, but instead a way of life and a revelation of her inspiring character.